Bridges in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

The link is here

BRIDGES. Cleveland, split firmly though unequally by the CUYAHOGA RIVER, is deeply dependent on bridges. The city’s east and west sides are joined today by both high fixed spans and lower-level opening bridges. Trains cannot climb steep grades, and their frequency of crossing is low enough to permit the use of opening spans of various sorts. Auto and truck traffic, however, is of such high density that delays occasioned by spans opening for river traffic would be intolerable. Autos and trucks are capable of climbing the relatively steep approaches to high-level bridges over the Cuyahoga River, and today the bridges carrying heavy traffic loads (the Innerbelt Bridge, the HOPE MEMORIAL BRIDGE, the VETERANS MEMORIAL BRIDGE, and theMAIN AVE. BRIDGE) are high fixed spans. There are more than 330 bridges in the immediate Cleveland area, including both the Cuyahoga River bridges and those spanning other features of the area’s mixed terrain and industrial complexes.

When Cleveland was first platted, just before 1800, the east and west sides were joined by ferries, which were soon supplanted by the first Center St. Bridge. The Center St. Bridge was based on a system of chained floating logs, a section of which would be pulled aside to permit the passage of vessels. A later version of this bridge was based on pontoon boats, and ultimately on a succession of fixed structures. The first substantial bridge over the Cuyahoga appears to have been the first COLUMBUS STREET BRIDGE, erected ca. 1836, with a draw section permitting vessels to pass. The roofed bridge was 200′ long and 33′ wide, including sidewalks. In 1836, following the incorporation of both Cleveland and OHIO CITY (CITY OF OHIO), Cleveland ordered the destruction of its portion of the Center St. Bridge, which had the effect of directing commerce across the Columbus St. span, thereby bypassing Ohio City. Enraged Ohio City residents damaged the Columbus St. span and hostilities began. West-siders ultimately gained their point, retaining a Center St. bridge along with the Columbus St. span. With Cleveland’s annexation of Ohio City in 1854, traffic increases led to construction of the Main St. Bridge and the Seneca (W. 3rd) St. Bridge, and a rebuilding of the Center St. Bridge. In 1870 the Columbus bridge was replaced by an iron truss structure, which in turn was replaced by a 3rd bridge in 1895. The Seneca span collapsed in 1857 and was replaced first by a timber draw span, and in 1888 by a Scherzer roller-lift bridge–the first of its kind in Cleveland. The Center St. Bridge had a similar history, its wooden structure being replaced several times, finally with the unequal swinging span of iron built in 1900, which remained in service in 1993 as the sole swinging bridge in the city.

By 1993, 4 great vehicular bridges provided high-level spans over the Cuyahoga Valley. They were the Veterans Memorial Bridge (opened in 1918), the Hope Memorial Bridge (1932), the Main Ave. Bridge (1939), and the Innerbelt Bridge (1959). Near the present Veterans Memorial Bridge may be seen the remains of one of Cleveland’s great historical bridge achievements, the SUPERIOR VIADUCT, opened with great fanfare in Dec. 1878. Its great west side stone approaches were joined with a swinging metal span crossing the Cuyahoga toward PUBLIC SQUARE and downtown Cleveland. The viaduct served until Veterans Memorial was opened in 1918, as a result of complaints about delays in vehicular traffic from the frequent openings that river traffic required. Originally known as the Detroit-Superior Bridge, Veterans Memorial was a 2-level structure, with streetcars utilizing the lower deck until their demise in the 1950s. When inaugurated, it was the world’s largest double-deck reinforced-concrete bridge.

Planned as early as 1916 but delayed by World War I, Hope Memorial was opened as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge in 1932. The bridge has a lower deck originally designed for rapid-transit trains and trucks, but never used. Four colossal pylons, with figures symbolizing transportation progress, were preserved as the bridge underwent a thorough renovation in the 1980s, at which time it was renamed the Hope Memorial Bridge to honor the stonemason father of former Cleveland entertainer Bob Hope. Planned as early as 1930 to replace the low-level Main Ave. Bridge, with its attendant traffic delays, the Main Ave. High-Level Bridge was opened in 1939, after a remarkably fast construction largely financed with PWA funds. The bridge is 2,250′ long; with approaches, it is more than a mile in length. Eight truss-cantilever spans of varying lengths constitute the bridge itself, with added bridgework at the eastern end joining the bridge to the lakefront freeway. Having undergone significant emergency repairs in the 1980s, the Main Ave. Bridge was closed from 1990-92 for a major rebuilding and renovation of the deck structure, sidewalks, and railings.

The old CENTRAL VIADUCT, opened in 1888, stood approximately at the location of the Innerbelt Bridge (1959). The entire span consisted of 2 bridges of iron and steel placed on masonry piers. Originally the river was spanned with a swing section, which was replaced with an overhead truss in 1912. Closed in 1941, the Central Viaduct was finally replaced in 1959 by the Innerbelt Bridge, built with substantial funding resulting from the Federal Highway Act of 1956. The bridge is Ohio’s widest, and nearly a mile long, with the central portion consisting of a series of cantilever-deck trusses with a reinforced-concrete deck and asphaltic concrete driving surface. It serves to connect I-71 and I-90 West with the Innerbelt Freeway. Two other bridges built as part of the interstate highway system are the I-490 bridge, which replaced the Clark Ave. Bridge, and the I-480 bridge spanning the Cuyahoga through VALLEY VIEW. A substantial high-level rail bridge, the CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL Railway Bridge, just south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, carries 2 rail tracks and 2 tracks used by commuter rapid trains of the GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY.

Nearly a dozen movable bridges remained across the Cuyahoga serving both vehicular traffic and railroads in 1993. Among the vehicular bridges are the old Center St. Swing Bridge, the Willow St. Lift Bridge (over the Old Cuyahoga Channel between the west side and WHISKEY ISLAND), the Columbus St. Lift Bridge, the Carter Rd. Bridge, and the W. 3rd St. Bridge. The remaining lift bridges serve various railroads; some were actively used, such as the ConRail Lift Bridge near the mouth of the Cuyahoga–the first bridge up the Cuyahoga from Cleveland Harbor–but many remained in lifted positions in the 1980s in response to industrial declines in the Cuyahoga Valley and consequent declines in railroad traffic. The rail bridges included Scherzer roller-lift bridges, bascule structures, and jacknife bridges, in addition to lift bridges such as the ConRail structure.

In addition to those spanning the Cuyahoga River, there are other bridges in Cleveland worthy of note. Architect CHAS. F. SCHWEINFURTH†, noted for his design of the downtown TRINITY CATHEDRAL, designed 4 unusually fine bridges that span Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. (formerly Liberty Blvd.) inROCKEFELLER PARK. Structurally interesting in their combining of steel, concrete, and decorative stone, they include 3 vehicle bridges (Wade Park, Superior, and St. Clair avenues) and a railroad bridge (built for the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway). Other noteworthy structures include the Forest Hills pedestrian bridge in nearby CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, the concrete-arch Monticello Bridge carrying Monticello Blvd. over Euclid Creek, the 1910 DETROIT-ROCKY RIVER BRIDGE (demolished 1980), the Hilliard Rd. Bridge over the Rocky River (1926), and the steel arched Lorain Rd. Bridge crossing Metropolitan Park near the Rocky River.

Although a large number of engineers, designers, and architects, organizations, and consortia can be identified with recent bridge history in Cleveland, several individuals and organizations stand out. One of these is Chas. Schweinfurth, whose designs were referred to earlier. Another prominent designer and builder associated mainly with midwestern railroad bridges was AMASA STONE†, who, unfortunately, is often remembered for the tragic 1876 collapse of his innovative wrought-iron Howe truss bridge that spanned the Ashtabula River, supporting the tracks of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, of which he was president. Cleveland firms that have had prominent roles in the history of Cleveland bridges are Wilbur J. Watson & Associates–known for the 1940 Columbus St. Bridge and later for pioneering concrete bridge structures–and Frank Osborn’s OSBORN ENGINEERING CO., which began building local bridges at about the end of the 19th century. Another firm with historical prominence was the KING IRON BRIDGE & MANUFACTURING CO., which had important roles in the building of the Veterans Memorial Bridge, the old Central Viaduct, and the present (1993) Center St. Bridge. In the post-World War II period, the firm of Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff was heavily involved with bridges in Cleveland, as attention shifted away from building new bridges to rebuilding and rehabilitating existing structures.

Willis Sibley


Bluestone, Daniel M., ed. Cleveland: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites (1978).

Bridges of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County (1918).

Watson, Sara Ruth and John R. Wolfs. Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland (1981).

Aviation in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

AVIATION. In the 1920s Cleveland emerged as a center for the early development of commercial mail and passenger flight operations, and since that time has become a focal point for the advancement of modern aviation and aerospace technology.

Cleveland’s initial contact with aviation began during World War I when the federal government provided incentive for its development by introducing the delivery of mail by air. Just as Cleveland benefited from its position on the New York-to-Chicago railroad corridor, its size and strategic location fit ideally into a coast-to-coast route for airmail delivery from New York City to San Francisco. In 1918 federal officials began constructing a transcontinental system of navigational beacons or “guide lights” to initiate coast-to-coast airmail delivery, and Cleveland, aided by enthusiastic support from the Chamber of Commerce and local business groups, was chosen as one of the principal stops. The first regular airmail service as far as Chicago was inaugurated in mid-December of that year when planes piloted by U.S. Army flyers arrived in Cleveland, landing on a grassy strip in Woodland Hills Park near E. 93rd St. and Kinsman Ave. Planes on these runs carried 850 lbs. of mail (letters cost $.06 to send) and the flights experienced few major difficulties. The first truly transcontinental airmail trips in the nation began 8 Sept. 1920, with planes making their Cleveland stop at Martin Field, located behind the aircraft plant (seeGLENN L. MARTIN CO.) on St. Clair Ave. The U.S. government considered these makeshift fields unsatisfactory, and in 1925, CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT emerged when a team of city officials and Army Air Service personnel selected 1,040 acres at Brookpark and Riverside Dr. as the site for a new municipal airport. The much larger facility reflected good long-term planning, although the administration and passenger buildings did not open until 4 years later.

The timing of this $1.25 million airport expenditure was ideal because in 1925 Congress passed the Kelly Act, under which the federal government turned over operation of its airmail routes to private parties through competitive bidding. Civil aviation was born, and Cleveland benefited from the entrepreneurial spirit of the early airplane owners. Not only did private contract flyers carry mail to various cities, mostly in the Midwest, but these fledgling businesses began to seek passengers as well. Ford Commercial Air lines inaugurated daily trips between Cleveland and Detroit on 1 July 1925, and soon Natl. Air Transport, a future component of United Airlines, launched what would become the first continuous service. Four thousand planes cleared the new field in 1925; in 1926 the total reached 11,000; and a year later, volume had grown to 14,000. Travelers bound for Detroit in 1929 made the 100-minute flight from Cleveland in a Ford tri-motor metal monoplane paying a fare of $18 one way and $35 round-trip. Airline personnel continually reassured wary passengers that air travel was safe, pointing out that planes, pilots, and mechanics were licensed by the Aeronautics Branch of the Dept. of Commerce and a rigid daily inspection of equipment was made. Aircraft landing was indeed made much safer after 1930 when Cleveland’s municipal airport installed the world’s first radio traffic system. General airport upgrading in the mid-1930s also made for better flying, and pilots favored the Cleveland field because of its relatively obstruction-free approaches.

With the introduction of the improved Douglas DC-3 airplane in the late 1930s, the number of trips canceled by adverse conditions lessened significantly, making it possible for an airline to turn a profit on a flight without hauling mail. By World War II, 3 airlines, American, Pennsylvania Central, and United, dominated Cleveland’s commercial traffic. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the greater dependability and faster speeds of the planes, the lower fares, and the decline in intercity railroad passenger service expanded the market for air travel. Both passenger traffic and mail increased, as did the number of flights for airlines such as Eastern, TWA, United, and Trans-Canada, which connected Cleveland travelers to the major cities of the U.S. and Canada and to international flights around the world.

The most notable technological advance during the period was the advent of the jet engine and the rapid disappearance of piston-driven craft. Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 jets began to land at Cleveland Hopkins Intl. Airport, and in the late 1970s, the next generation of wide-bodied Boeing 747s and DC-10s regularly deposited passengers here. Only a few turbo-prop jets reminded passengers of the early jet age, and these craft belonged almost exclusively to small feeder lines such as the locally based WRIGHT AIRLINES, INC.. Massive improvements of Hopkins facilities were begun in 1973 involving a $60 million terminal-expansion plan which included rehabilitation of the west concourse and the longer runways needed to accommodate the jet age and the increase in passengers that it brought.

While physical improvements at Greater Cleveland’s 3 airports were readily apparent, the traveler, after 1978, also recognized that airlines themselves were changing as the revolutionary process of deregulation by the federal government swept the industry in the late 1970s. Competition increased and so did mergers as fares were lowered to attract more passengers. In order to maintain profitability, trunk carriers reduced the number of flights or ended service outright in what was rapidly becoming an intense rivalry. In spite of the volatility, however, a number of new airlines entered the field, and in 1992 Continental and USAir were major carriers operating out of Cleveland’s municipal airport.

Greater Cleveland had satellite airports as well. To relieve congestion, especially traffic generated by private aircraft, Cleveland’s downtown field, BURKE LAKEFRONT AIRPORT, opened in 1947 to provide ready access to the central business for travelers using their own or company planes or the regularly scheduled community flights. The other major landing strip at CUYAHOGA COUNTY AIRPORT on Richmond Rd. also served general aviation. Located in Richmond Hts., this field initially opened in the spring of 1929 when Ohio Air Terminals, Inc. acquired a 272-acre parcel for a flying school and related activities; however, it closed a year later after legal action was taken against the promoters because of airplane noise and danger. A pro-aviation climate after World War II prompted small-plane enthusiasts to win voter approval for the issuance of county general obligation bonds to rehabilitate the field. Although nearby property owners tried to block the plan, the Cuyahoga County Airport opened on 30 May 1950.

Cleveland aviation involved transporting freight as well as mail and people. In Feb. 1936, the Railway Express Agency’s Air Div. started air-rail express service through an interchange agreement with Pan American Airways that linked Cleveland with cities on 20 American airlines and most of Latin America. From the mid-1930s on, the forwarding of express and freight increased steadily. After World War II, air cargo service frequently became part of the individual carrier’s Cleveland operation. American Airlines, for instance, inaugurated such service between Hopkins and 42 other cities on its far-flung system in Sept. 1946. More recently, freight-only air forwarders have served the community, including Federal Express and the Flying Tiger Line.

In addition to the development of commercial aviation, Cleveland played an early role in the research and production of aircraft, beginning in 1918. That year inventor-entrepreneur Glenn L. Martin came to Cleveland and established a factory at 16800 St. Clair Ave. where he and his talented colleagues built the Martin MB bomber–acknowledged by military authorities to be superior in its class. The Martin-designed bomber, scheduled for quantity production when World War I ended, was produced here for the U.S. Army and Navy, for the Post Office, and for commercial use. Although Martin moved his plant to Baltimore in 1929, the GREAT LAKES AIRCRAFT CO. operated a portion of the former Martin facility until that company disbanded in the mid-1930s. Aircraft parts continued to be made here, however, by firms such as Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Co. and Thompson Products (TRW). Cleveland returned to aircraft production during World War II, when the Cleveland Bomber Plant owned by the Dept. of Defense and operated by General Motors (GM) made the B-29 bomber adjacent to the municipal airport.

Aviation research and development was also furthered by the NATIONAL AIR RACES, which were held here intermittently throughout the 1930s and from 1946-49. In 1929 the quality of Cleveland’s airport and the organizational skills of the Chamber of Commerce, together with support from Glenn Martin and Thompson Products, made possible the first aircraft races and the satellite aeronautical exposition. Although the races popularized aviation and were a source of civic pride, they were also important in advancing aircraft technology. Contests such as the Bendix trophy race from Los Angeles to Cleveland and the Thompson Trophy Race–a 55-mi. closed course marked by pylons–were proving grounds to test the airplanes’ durability and performance under extreme conditions. Cleveland’s stature as a research center was affirmed when the Natl. Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) established an aircraft engine laboratory in 1940. During World War II, its investigations included the problems associated with B-29 engines which were being assembled here by GM. Renamed the Lewis Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory after the war, the NACA facility conducted research to improve jet engine technology. In 1958 the Lewis Research Center became part of the Natl. Air & Space Admin. (NASA) and became actively engaged in the Mercury and Apollo space programs.

Although aircraft production did not remain in Cleveland, the city retained a meaningful presence in the manufacture of airplane parts and the advancement of jet engine and aerospace research and development.

H. Roger Grant

Univ. of Akron


Dawson, Virginia P. Engines and Innovation: Lewis Laboratories and American Propulsion Technologies (1991).

Hull, Robert. September Champions–The Story of America’s Air Racing Pioneers (1979).

Fordon, Leslie N. “On to Cleveland Race–1929,” in American Aviation Historical Journal, Spring (1966).

Wings Over Cleveland (1948).

Giblin, Ann M. “Aviation Enterprise, Technology and Law on Richmond Rd: The Curtiss Wright Hanger and the Cuyahoga County Airport,” in Journal of the Cuyahoga County Archives, (1983).

Morton, Jan. “Cleveland’s Municipal Airport,” in National Municipal Review (1926).

Aviation Library, WRHS.

Port seeks to become steward of river, lake (Crain’s Cleveland Business 7/25/11)

from Crain’s Cleveland Business July 25, 2011

The link is here

Port seeks to become steward of river, lake

Agency expands reach under its strategic plan

By JAY MILLER
4:30 am, July 25, 2011

A second regional government is going through a makeover. Just as Cuyahoga County government has been remaking itself under new County Executive Ed FitzGerald after a major corruption scandal, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority is coming clean and rebranding itself under its president of one year, William Friedman. Last week, in unveiling a new strategic plan, the Port Authority officially signaled it was abandoning its ambitions to be a real estate developer on port land. Instead, it wants to be seen as a green agency that’s protecting the Cuyahoga River even as it refocuses on its business role as a dock operator on the Great Lakes. In short, it’s positioning itself to be the steward of the lakefront and the Cuyahoga. The changes come after a plan to move the docks to East 55th Street proved to be financially unachievable — or, as a new policy statement explains in a mea culpa, “overly ambitious.” The agency is refashioning itself a year before it must go back to voters to renew, and possibly increase, the small, 0.13-mill property tax levy that currently covers about 40% of the agency’s annual revenue, which totaled $7.9 million in 2010. “The Port Authority believes preserving the river channel and maritime industries are critical responsibilities,” Mr. Friedman reported to his board of directors last Wednesday, July 20. “We are prepared to lead that effort.” Later that day, in a meeting with the Crain’s editorial board, Mr. Friedman said the needs of the lakefront and the river channel are so great it could take $250 million over the next decade or longer to restore the waterfront infrastructure. That investment is needed to protect what the strategic plan calculates are 17,832 jobs and $1.81 billion in annual economic activity tied to Port of Cleveland docks and to private berths along the river. It’s likely the Port Authority would seek state and federal money to cover as much of the cost of this work as possible, though Mr. Friedman told the Crain’s editorial board the agency also could use its tax receipts.“The port’s tax levy is a pretty logical place to look,” he said. Mr. Friedman said money from the Port Authority’s levy could be used to support a long-term bond issue. But first, the Port Authority must beef up its cargo operations, which now are losing money and are subsidized in part by the tax levy.

Oh, Canada 

The new strategic plan calls for pursuing various avenues for cargo growth. Mr. Friedman said he believes interest is developing among shippers for a new container cargo route that would bring goods chiefly shipped from northern Europe to Cleveland via Montreal. He also said he is pursuing a cargo ferry that would shuttle from a Canadian port on Lake Erie to Cleveland. This ferry would be in addition to a planned passenger ferry service the Port Authority is negotiating with local Ontario officials in Port Stanley. Beyond those measures, the Port Authority master plan sees potential for cargo from the wind energy industry and even an increase in steel and other traditional lake cargo as the port pursues business from shippers. Bradley Hull, associate professor of management and business logistics at John Carroll University, said he believes the cargo business can be built. Dr. Hull worked as a consultant to the Port Authority earlier this decade and surveyed local companies for their interest in shipping containers through the Port of Cleveland. “There were probably about 20 big companies in Cleveland that were interested in it,” he said. “They never said, “Yes I would do this,’ but there weren’t any steamship companies interested in coming to Cleveland at the time.” Dr. Hull said he believes there is more than enough business for a once-a-week container ship shuttle between Cleveland and Montreal. Arnie de la Porte, honorary consul for the Netherlands, likewise believes this new cargo plan makes sense. Netherlands shipping lines call frequently at the Port of Cleveland. “One of the biggest problems we had at the port was uncertainty — they talked about moving, about taking away certain things — and everyone (in the shipping community) became nervous,” Mr. de la Porte said. “This strategic plan makes sense.”

Dibs on the Cuyahoga 

The Port Authority also is looking to broaden its domain and its relevance by positioning itself as the keeper of the Cuyahoga. It makes the case that maintaining the river as a navigable channel for shippers who bring bulk cargo up the river — such as the iron ore that is vital to the ArcelorMittal steel mill in the Flats — is a key factor in maintaining the health of the port. “I feel strongly that it is the right thing for the Port Authority as a matter of public policy to address the needs of the river,” Mr. Friedman said. Sections of the bulkhead that prevent the erosion of the riverbank are crumbling. In one section, this erosion has caused the closure of Riverbed Road because its base has shifted downhill. A landslide that breached the bulkhead could close the river to navigation.

Out with the old … 

The new strategic plan formalizes a significant shift from the direction the port had been heading last decade. Five years ago the Port Authority was making headlines as a real estate wheeler and dealer, as it embarked on a bold plan to remake the waterfront east from the Cuyahoga River. It even went a step further and offered its development financing know-how to rebuild NASA Glenn Research Center. In part, the port’s real estate bent reflected the temperment of board chairman John Carney, a real estate developer who had seen the transformation of the Spanish port of Bilboa — an Atlantic port city smaller than Cleveland — while on a vacation/fact-gathering trip. He saw a similar opportunity in Cleveland. But the port’s vision collapsed as newly appointed board members balked at the growing expense of a ballooning staff and questioned the Port Authority’s ability to afford new, larger docks, forcing the abrupt resignation in November 2009 of Port Authority president Adam Wasserman.

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